Alicia moved into the office quietly, and slid a mug of coffee onto Anna’s desk.
Anna glanced up and smiled absentmindedly. “You’re a gem, Alicia. Thanks.”
“You haven’t taken a break since you arrived this morning, so I figured you needed a jolt of caffeine. I hate to disturb you, but I wanted to make sure you remembered the meeting with Gregory Stein at 3:30.”
Anna grimaced. “I can’t believe I forgot. For the TV spots?”
Alicia nodded. “I know you need to finish the paper work for the end of the year report, but there’s nobody else here who knows anything about TV commercials.”
“No problem. I should be able to finish these reports by 3:00. Where is the meeting?”
“At Dandridge & Roberts Advertising.”
“That helps. Since the agency is close, I can take an extra fifteen minutes if I need it. I’ll send Marian an email to let her know that the paperwork is complete. One small favor, Alicia. Marian dislikes paperwork as much as I do. Will you remind her that she needs to check all of my numbers against hers?”
“No worries. I’ll light a fire under her. Will you back in the office after your meeting?”
“I’m not sure. Let’s leave that open. If anything comes up that you can’t handle, turn it over to Julia or Natalia.”
“Is Natalia going to be here on a permanent basis?”
Anna shrugged. “Marian hasn’t confided in me, so I’m not sure what the plan is for the rest of the year. The eventual plan has always been that Natalia would become director when Marian retires. That’s not going to happen anytime soon, God willing. Contingencies do occur. Marian began to think seriously about a back-up plan for the Foundation after Natalia’s emergency surgery. My guess is that she urged Natalia to begin getting her feet wet.”
“She’s been in and out of the Foundation’s offices since she was a toddler.”
“She’s also volunteered for numerous of the Foundation’s events, but she hasn’t been in on the planning, and she doesn’t know the donors, or our suppliers.”
“What about Mark? He’s qualified.”
“He committed to working for two years when he stepped into Etta Marshall’s position, and that was six years ago. More importantly, Alicia, Mark isn’t a McMatthews.”
Gregory Stein was widely known for producing TV spots that were crowd pleasing and money makers for his clients, so when he assured Anna that the TV spot he’d written for the Foundation was a winner, she didn’t argue. When she exited the offices of Dandridge & Roberts, she was feeling more upbeat than she had been in months. It was a gorgeous fall day, the kind that brought back memories of fall festivals, the county fair, crisp apples and pumpkin pies. For the moment, she felt carefree. The nitty-gritty of planning for the Foundation’s upcoming events was behind her, and her fears concerning her past—at least, most of them— had been assuaged. What more could a girl ask for?
She was standing in the parking lot of Dandridge & Roberts trying to decide whether to head back to work, or to grab a hamburger and coke at the Wendy’s on the corner of Vine and Clarke.
She turned when she heard the revving of an engine. She was momentarily paralyzed by the sight of a black SUV roaring toward her. Before she could react, someone from behind gave her a hard shove. Her purse, cell phone, and the file she was carrying, shot out of her hands and spiraled through the air and landed in the bushes beside the parking lot. She, on the other hand, landed in an undignified sprawl on the pavement. The heels of her palms and her knees sustained most of the jolt. Her hands looked as though she’d had an accident with a cheese grater. And she wasn’t a bit happy that her new, expensive slacks were now a candidate for the trash bin.
Before she could get to her feet or thank her lucky stars that she was alive, a teenage boy with worried eyes, crouched down beside her. “I’m sorry, lady, but I didn’t know what else to do. Are you okay?”
She took a deep breath. “Mind giving me a hand up?”
The teen helped her to her feet.
“Thank you. And, thank you for saving my life. “I’m Anna Kingston.”
“My name is Reed Dandridge; my dad is the Dandridge in Dandridge & Roberts.”
“What about you, Reed? Are you hurt.”
He shook his head. “No. I took a tumble, but I’m not hurt.”
“Did you see what caused that driver to lose control of his car?”
“I had just gotten out of my car when I heard the driver revving his engine. He didn’t lose control of his car, Anna He deliberately tried to hit you. I'm positive of that. You don’t leave the scene of an accident unless you’ve done something wrong.”
Anna’s good day suddenly turned bleak. She closed her eyes hoping that Reed wouldn’t see the despair in her eyes. She wanted to scream, “It isn’t fair!” but what would that accomplish? Reed was a kid—an extraordinary kid—and she didn’t want to add to his anxiety.
When she opened her eyes, she was surprised to see that gawkers were gathering. She assured the onlookers that she was not seriously hurt. At least there were two good Samaritans in the crowd. One of the men, who had collected her flying possessions, ventured forward and handed the items to her. She thanked him for his kindness. Then, a woman who identified herself as a nurse, expressed her concern. “You need to get those abrasions on your hands taken care of. What about your knees?
Anna pulled up her pants leg, and it was not a pretty sight.
The nurse motioned toward a squad car. “There’s a police officer getting out of his car. Give me a minute to talk to him. If he has an emergency kit, I’ll be happy to clean the abrasions for you.”
While the nurse— who Anna later learned was named Olivia Sanchez— cleaned and bandaged Anna’s hands and knees, Officer Connelly questioned Reed and the handful of men and women who had seen the accident. The onlookers claimed that they were more concerned about the victims, Anna and Reed, than checking out the car’s license plate. There was one bit of information that Reed and the onlookers agreed on; the car was a black Nissan Rogue, and the windows were tinted.
Olivia tried to be gentle, but the sting of the antiseptic caused Anna to flinch. “Sorry for being such a wimpy patient.”
“Under the circumstances, I’d say that you are handling the situation extremely well.” She advised Anna to call someone to pick her up. “The bleeding will start again if you walk back to your office. Stay off your feet for the rest of the day if possible. If you don’t have pain medication at home, get a friend to pick up some for you. Otherwise, you won’t be getting any sleep tonight.”
After his interrogation, Reed strolled over to the squad car. “Officer Connelly has given me permission to leave, but I didn’t want to leave without speaking to you.”
“You take care of yourself, Reed.” Anna took two twenties’ and one of her business cards out of her purse and handed the items to Reed. “I heard you tell Officer Connelly that you stopped by the agency to get gas money. No amount of cash can express my thanks, but I can at least give you gas money. If you need a reference for a job or a college application, you have my card.”
“Thanks, Anna. I’m just glad you’re okay. I hope they catch the guy who tried to run you down. He should be strung up by his toes.”
By the time Officer Connelly questioned Anna, Lindsey arrived at the scene. Anna had called her rather than Mark or Marian. Fortunately, Lindsey was available to pick her up. She was in no mood to answer her co-workers' questions, especially Mark’s. He would be livid because she had walked rather than driven to Dandridge & Roberts.